Point of View Columns

The Secret Danger of Living While Black

In just a week we have seen the madness that is the Trump Era played out for all the world to see. Multiple mail bombs sent to designated Trump “enemies” including two former presidents, Trump’s opponent in the last presidential campaign and a major media Trump critic sounds like a plot from some the fevered hate swamp in some mythical third world country. Instead it is the America that Trump promised to make great again. And this is what greatness looks like in Trump World.

And the day after 11 Jewish worshipers were shot down in a Pittsburgh synagogue, two innocent black citizens are shot dead in Kentucky by a self-avowed white supremacist. And as we view the news with trepidation and horror, we can be assured that as long as Donald Trump is president there is more to come. But while we are revolted by this new wave of domestic terror, we are distracted from an ongoing terror, the terror visited upon those who have discovered the all too prevalent danger of Living While Black.

It should be self-evident that the potentially fatal condition of Living While Black (or LWB) is a condition that only affects black Americans, there are a growing number of mutations that seem to be proliferating across the United States, creating an epidemic that is reminiscent of the 19th (or even the 18th) century. The news over the past few years has chronicled the progression of this malady:

  • HWB (Hooded While Black) – Trayvon Martin
  • SCWB (Selling Cigarettes While Black) – Eric Garner
  • BWB (Belligerent While Black) – Michael Brown

But now there are new iterations. Recent news reports from Detroit indicate that GWB (Gardening While Black) is a condition that can result from offended white women calling the police because they don’t appreciate the community garden on a vacant lot tended to by a black man by the name of Marc Peeples. In Dallas, SWB (Sleeping While Black) turned out to be a fatal condition for Botham Jean who was shot to death by a white policewoman who mistakenly entered her apartment thinking that it was hers. And then there was an outbreak of GHWB (Going Home While Black) in St. Louis when D’Arreion Toles was challenged by a white woman while trying to lawfully enter the building where his apartment was located.

Sad to say, these are not isolated events. Driving While Black (DWB) has been a common malady for many years. And all of these events can have life-threatening consequences depending upon the mood (and color) of the police officers responding to calls for assistance from these faux damsels in distress. And, sad to say, there has yet to be any consequences visited upon the instigators, even though false or baseless calls for police assistance constitute a criminal act in many jurisdictions across this country.

The point is that even with the madness of the mail bombings, synagogue massacres and white supremacist rampages, it is important to remember that there are other insidious, but just as repellent.

These are behaviors that endanger the lives of black Americans every day – behaviors that are no less vicious due to the lack of concern for the potential consequences. And it is so very sad that in this Trump Era, the standards for decent and humane conduct have been degraded to the point that Living While Black is fraught with dangers, dangers that every black American must risk every day.

Standard
Point of View Columns

When a Sham Becomes a Shame

The only thing surprising about the Trump presidency is how consistently awful he is and how there seem to be no redeeming factors with which he can be associated. At times that there only redemptive feature of President Trump is that, no matter what, he cannot be president after January of 2025. And that is a poverty stricken gossamer thread of hope for anyone who care about this country and its people.

One would think that insulting the entire NATO alliance, tossing candy at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, endorsing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political nemesis and walking in front of Queen Elizabeth would have been enough chaos for Hurricane Donald. But there was more, much more. Virtually fawning over his bromantic partner Vladimir Putin, Trump actually denigrated the American justice and intelligence communities while stating that America was at fault for the differences between Russia and the United States, managing to also turn the evidence-laden proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 election into just more “fake news”.

It will be up to historians in the future to fully comprehend the amount of damage that this man has caused in just 18 months of being president. Trade wars around the world, engaging in a futile pas de deux with North Korea, inhuman treatment of immigrants at the American border with Mexico and the demonization of the American news media (or were the shootings in the Annapolis newsroom too long ago for anyone to remember) – these are actions which have current repercussions. But it is the turmoil that is still incubating which is even more worrisome.

While Americans wake up every morning literally wondering what outrageous statement will spew from the White House, so much more is going on right below the surface. It is hard to pace with the termite-like attacks that the Trump Administration is pursuing, attacks that are just below the surface and will not become apparent until the edifice starts to fray, crack and crash.

As you are reading this, the Trump Department of Education and the Trump Department of Justice are looking to virtually outlaw affirmative action in higher education. If his minions are successful, and with the likely installment of Brett Kavanaugh insuring an iron conservative majority on the Supreme Court for the next 10-15 years they almost certainly will succeed, diversity will no longer be a reality on many college campuses – it will only be a word found in a dictionary in a library, if anyone can find a library.

Meanwhile departure of Scott Pruitt as Executive Director of the EPA was a cause for only momentary celebration for those of us who think that clear air and clean water are important. That is because his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal industry executive and destroying the environment is a key element of his professional resume.

The Trump/Sessions Department of Justice tries to make people think that reopening the Emmett Till case is an example of the shell game also known as benevolent ivory justice. One can only assume that we should forget Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and all of the other black men and women who have been “lawfully” lynched by the system that has reneged on a promise of “just for all”.

The point, of course, is that while we continue to be focused on the Trump Clown Show, Trump and his minions are engaged in the serious and serial and systematic dismantling of so much of the infrastructure of hope and promise (as imperfect as it has been) that has made this country worth saving. And every day that Donald Trump is president is another day that hope and promise fade just a little bit more.

And that may be The True Tragedy That is Trump.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Eternal Requiem

The crime of “Living While Black” has been part of the American criminal justice system since colonial times. Every black man, woman and child in this country is subject to indictment. The punishment for this crime has taken the form of housing discrimination, employment bias and all too many times death. Sometimes it is a slow death occasioned by factors such as environmental racism (see Flint, Michigan) and sometimes the death sentence is carried out by a policeman’s gun.

The recent roll call of Americans of African descent that has died at the hands of police or while in police custody seems never ending because it is never ending. The names of men, women and children who could have been famous for their good deeds, who could have remained anonymous in the ordinary pursuit of ordinary happiness, are known to us because they are dead.

Children like Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, women like Eleanor Bumphurs and Sandra Bland and men like Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Sean Bell are known to us only because they suffered the death sentence imposed for the crime of “Living While Black”. And just now, two more names are added to the eternal requiem – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile should be alive as this column is being read. They are dead because white police officers murdered them. We know that they were murdered and not killed incidental to some criminal act because there is real time video that undeniably reveals those Baton Rouge and St. Paul police officers to be murderers.

And we also know that without the real time video evidence Alton Sterling and Philando Castile would join the countless and anonymous men, women and children who have been killed by the police without witness. And we have to wonder what the real body count is in the reign of terror that targets black Americans everywhere in America?

There are the predictable calls for quiet and restraint in the national black community – and there is simply no reason for black Americans to kill each other and burn down their own homes – or anyone else’s home – upon the commission of another outrage. But we wait, not so quietly and definitely impatiently for calls for quiet and restraint to be exercised by police officers. We wait not so quietly and definitely impatiently for members of the criminal justice system – police officers, district attorneys, prosecutors – to righteously and vociferously condemn this Blue Carnage which afflicts the national black community.

The tears of the parents of the dead, the orphans of the dead, the lovers and spouses and partners of the dead drench the earth of this nation. Justice delayed is no justice at all. And in the case of Blue Carnage, the justice that is called for is not simply convicting the police officers who pulled the trigger. True justice will include and transformation of the criminal justice system so that “Living While Black” is no longer a crime and every black, woman and child is not an automatic suspect.

True justice will mean an end to mass incarceration, but it will also mean an end to the state sanctioned dehumanization of the black community. True justice will mean that black parents will not have to teach their nine year old boys and girls how to avoid being killed by the police. True justice will mean that black teenagers should be able to be as silly and outrageous on 125th Street as white teenagers on Spring Break in Florida without those being death defying acts.

And finally, true justice will be known to all of us when the foul heritage of the Black Codes and race-based slavery and Jim Crow and state sponsored segregation and serial lynching is finally and absolutely condemned by every sentient being in this country. It when that true justice is made known that this nation can begin to actually aspire to the high ideals and aspirations that were so eloquently stated at the inception of the Republic.

These high ideals and aspirations have become museum pieces instead of being the living, breathing heritage and culture of all Americans. Only True Justice and change that.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 8, 2014

It is the nature of bad taste that there are no limits to how bad it can get. So it may come as no surprise that a sin-stained child killer (George Zimmerman) and a washed up rapper (DMX) will stage an exhibition boxing match – but still…. Meanwhile, the George Washington Bridgegate scandal is turning out to be The Death of a Thousand Cuts for Chris Christie. And finally, in a monumental tribute to insensitivity, Turner Classic Movies aired “Gone with the Wind” on the first day of Black History Month. Really???

Just Say No!

It has been said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people. It can also be said that it is hard to lose money selling bad taste to the American people.

A case in point – George Zimmerman, the acquitted killer of Trayvon Martin, who should forever hide his face in shame and beg his God for some measure of forgiveness, is slated to appear in a celebrity boxing match. DMX, an outdated has been of a rapper, who has spent more time in prison than on stage in recent years, will be his opponent.

This is wrong on so many levels it is impossible to know where to start – the promoter, the faux pugilists? There is certainly a special place in Hell for whoever came up with this idea.

In the meantime, we should keep in mind that it is possible to ignore this obscenity and not watch it as it sinks into to the immoral slime from which it came.

Christie’s Circus

Clearly, at some point in the recent past, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decided that, instead of trying to run for president he would pursue a career in comedy. That is the only explanation behind the dumb as a bag of hammers move by someone in his office to close the George Washington Bridge followed by a cover up that makes the Nixon Administration look positively Machiavellian by comparison.

And now, the Christie administration has brought up the 11th grade record of a possible accuser (and former Christie appointee) as a means of attacking that person’s credibility. Please reread the prior sentence because it is so stupid that it has to be true.

Clearly Chris Christie believes that when you are in secondary school there really is such a thing as a Permanent Record.

Turner Classic Ignorance

For those of you who pay attention to such things, Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, began on February 1st. Either the big brain executives at Turner Classic Movies didn’t know that, or they just didn’t care.

In any event, TCM decided that February 1st was a great evening to air that racist slavery fantasy, “Gone with the Wind”. We should be glad that “Birth of a Nation” was presumably not available.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Here’s What’s Wrong with Cornel West

It appears that ever since he did not get the Inaugural tickets that his massive ego demanded, Cornel West has been determined to claw and gnaw at the presidency of Barack Obama. While he is free to permanently and totally disagree with any and all of the policies espoused by President Obama, it might be useful for Dr. West to remember that with freedom comes responsibility. And in that regard Cornel West has come up short – so to speak.

From the time that he took office Barack Obama has been subjected to ridicule and disrespect rarely seen in modern times. While it is true that John Adams was labeled a “hermaphrodite” and Abraham Lincoln was called a “baboon” and a “gorilla”, one would be hard pressed to recall another president who was called a “liar” from the floor of the House of Representatives by a member of the House of Representatives. President Obama’s wife, children and mother have been fair game as the game is played by the right wing of the right wing.

Part of this has to do with the mud and dirt that one must endure when entering the political arena – just ask Bill Clinton or read about the full frontal attacks on Franklin D. “Rosenfeld” by the right wing of another era. But, as has been noted many times, there is a sharper edge to the arrows shot in the direction of Barack Obama and it is not being overly sensitive to suggest that this is because he is the first black President of the United States.

It is, therefore, odd and troubling that someone like Cornel West, a self-styled intellectual and self-anointed spokesman for the oppressed, has taken it upon himself to castigate, demonize and trash the Obama legacy. One would think that there are enough white right wing zealots available to do that job – and then there are always the two Alans, Alan West and Alan Keys, if there is a need to add some color to the attack team.

As an accomplished academic, Cornel West has taught at Princeton and Harvard and is currently on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary. Although his multiple degrees do not include history or political science, it is fair to hold Dr. West to a higher standard of awareness than the man or woman on the street – wherever that street might be.

And by that standard it is incomprehensible that a presumably intelligent and educated man like Cornel West would engage in hurling playground invectives at Barack Obama in the hope of…..what? Is he seeking to encourage thoughtful discourse and criticism regarding the policies of the Obama Administration? That is hard to believe when he labels the first black President of the United States “a lap dog for Wall Street”.

When he calls the man for whom over 90% of voting black Americans selected – twice – “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface”, exactly what point is he trying to get across? Aside from the very clear point of making sure that the name “Cornel West” stays in the media spotlight no matter how irrelevant he is becoming.

And in the middle of the distress and dismay following the despicable and damnable verdict in the George Zimmerman case did Dr. Cornel West offer some solace to the parents of Trayvon Martin. Did he try to put the case within the historical context of the seeming devaluation of black life by American institutions?

Of course not! Cornel West, a clear master of self-promotion, chose that very sad and somber moment to label President Obama “a Global George Zimmerman”, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. In doing so Cornel West misdirected attention away from serious consideration of the Zimmerman trial and verdict to…..you guessed it, Cornel West. And one can be certain that this attention helps Cornel West as he charges $30,000 per speech as an advocate for poor people. The irony is simultaneously inescapable and miserable.

The truth of the matter is that when the history of the Obama Administration is written decades from now, or next year, Cornel West will warrant something less than a footnote. He is a self-promoting and self-serving rhetorical provocateur who continues to do more harm than good every time he opens his mouth.

Perhaps one day Dr. West will come to grips with the fact that with freedom of speech comes some sort of responsibility for what one says. But don’t hold your breath.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 19, 2013

The aftermath of the wrongheaded and racially stained verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman leaves black parents in a real quandary – what survival lessons should be taught? Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has fashioned himself as some kind of avatar of Washington gridlock, and he is proud of it. And finally, the City of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. This is a sad story that may also be a precursor of things to come.

What is the Lesson Plan?

In her first interview since the Zimmerman trial, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin offered a heartbreaking observation – one shared by black parents across this country. She said that she had “no clue” what to tell her surviving son regarding the best course of action to take to stay in alive in circumstances similar to the one that cost Trayvon Martin his life.

Clearly walking down the street in a lawful fashion is not enough to insure that a young black man will come home alive. Just a clearly, taking notice, much less offense, to being followed by a suspicious or “creepy” white man could be a fatal decision.

In the event that her surviving son is confronted by a white man with no apparent or stated affiliation with law enforcement, he is supposed to………….what? Assume that all white men are well-intentioned and submit to detention and questioning? Should he run for his life? Should he resist as most young white men are taught to do?

It is a shame that there are no useful answers to these questions. And it is shameful that the Zimmerman case will not be the last of its kind in these United States.

The Champion of Dysfunction

When he first took his oath of office as a United States Senator Mitch McConnell swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. A thorough search of the Constitution will not reveal a provision that gives anyone the right to impair and impede the orderly function of the federal government for purely partisan reasons.

Yet, as Minority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell has instigated over FOUR HUNDRED FILIBUSTERS in order to impair and impeded the operations of the federal government. Everything from legislation to routine presidential appointments are held up, sometimes for years, at McConnell’s behest, serving his goal of crippling the Obama Administration and diminishing its legacy.

When Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 19, 2009, he swore that he would do everything in his power to make sure that President Obama was a one term president. We all know how that turned out.

Now, McConnell’s goal is loftier – the systematic destruction of the federal government by employing strategies of delay, obstruction and more delay.

Mitch McConnell is a political terrorist who wears a filibuster vest instead of a bomb vest.  

As Detroit Goes So Goes…….?

In the 1950’s Detroit was one of the largest cities in the United States with a population of 1.8 million people. Today Detroit has a population of 700,000 people and has filed for bankruptcy.

There are a lot of reasons for this disastrous decline of what was once one of this country’s greatest cities – governmental mismanagement, relocation of core businesses (including the automobile industry), the flight of the middle class (black and white) and seemingly no sustainable vision for the future.

The structural dysfunction of the city’s finances occasioned by pension costs cannot be ignored as well. Many cities, counties and states will be watching the outcome of the Detroit scenario as the mayors, managers and governors know that they could be next.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Twelve Lessons from the Zimmerman Trial

It took approximately sixteen hours for the jury in the trial of George Zimmerman to arrive at the verdict that acquitted him of all charges related to his having killed Trayvon Martin. This stunning demolition of the concept of “justice for all” has a sad and macabre “Groundhog Day” quality to it as American history reeks from the tradition of black men (and women) being killed without criminal consequence for the killers.

Conscientious black parents in this country give their children American Survival lessons at a very early age lest they run afoul of the third rail of racism that lies hidden just below the surface in these United States. The Zimmerman verdict provided yet another mandatory teachable moment. Ever since it took the jury of five white women and a Latina determined that the killing of Trayvon Martin did not warrant any punishment whatsoever, it has been important to think about twelve lessons that black parents will be teaching their children:

  1. For over two hundred years it was impossible for a white person to be arrested, much less convicted for killing a black person in the American South.
  2. Until the Civil War, very few white Americans did anything to prevent this ritualized and legalized slaughter of human beings.
  3. For over one hundred years after the Civil War black men and women were routinely lynched by white terrorists. These lynchings took place not only in the South but in places like Indiana and New York’s Long Island. Records do not indicate that any white person ever faced legal consequence as a result of this terrorist activity.
  4. During the wholesale lynching frenzy, most white Americans went about their business and there is no record of any Congressional action outlawing lynching despite a few pathetic efforts to do so.
  5. During the classic years of the Civil Rights movement so many black Americans were killed without the killers ever being arrested, much less prosecuted, the United States Congress passed a law in the early part of this century empowering the Justice Department to reopen so called “cold cases”. Not surprisingly, most of the perpetrators have either died or continue to walk the streets.
  6. Despite the history of institutionalized, routinized and culturally acceptable violence being perpetrated against black people in America, the myth of the barely controllable black brute has become a part of white American reality justifying the routine use of deadly force, capital punishment and the imposition of crippling prison sentences.
  7. In any encounter with the police or any other law enforcement representative, a black male can anticipate being held to a different standard regarding his conduct as his mere existence can be seen as a potential threat and he is considered to have the inherent capacity to become a wild and dangerous brute at any moment.
  8. In order to survive encounters with law enforcement representatives, a black male must be fully conscious of the perspective of those representatives, recognizing that raising his voice, gesticulating or looking angry could be seen as sufficient reason for the use of deadly force.
  9. Because of the prevailing myth of the black brute, black males must be self-aware in their interaction with white people who are not a part of law enforcement given that there are over 300 million firearms in the United States and the overwhelming number of them are owned by white Americans.
  10. The combination of the myth of the black brute has combined with “stand your ground” statutes to produce a toxic environment for black males where any argument, confrontation, fight or contentious encounter with a white person can have lethal consequences that will be deemed legally justifiable.
  11. The principles of self-defense in the American justice do not apply to black people when the presumed attacker is white. It is clear to all rational observers that if the “black George Zimmerman” had shot and killed the “white Trayvon Martin” and claimed self-defense he would have been arrested on the spot, convicted of killing the “white Trayvon Martin” and he would have begun serving his second year in prison by now.
  12. As a black male, you are not assured of a right to safety or to be free from random acts of lethal violence even if you are smart, college educated, well-spoken, well dressed, polite,  aware and law abiding. To stay alive you will also have to be lucky.

.

Standard